Updated: Mar 18, 2019
Bundesliga soccer team VfL Wolfsburg announced March 13 that during its fourth annual "Diversity Weeks" initiative, the team will require players on their women's and men's teams to wear an LGBT rainbow on their jerseys and "over 650" associated teams at a variety of league levels will have team captains wear an LGBT rainbow captain's armband. "Diversity Weeks" 2019 is co-sponsored by Volkswagen.
This placement of the LGBT rainbow on the player gear violates the FIFA ban on political symbols in the Laws of the Game: "Equipment must not have any political, religious or personal slogans, statements or images" (Law 04.5). Moreover, requiring players to wear a political symbol with which some may not agree is a form of coerced speech. This is unfair to players, as detailed in the 2019 report "Let All Play: Yes to Soccer, No to Politics."
VfL Wolfsburg tweeted a photo of their women's team, the She-Wolves, wearing the LGBT rainbow on their jerseys during a March 13 match against Turbine Potsdam. The VfL Wolfsburg men's team, the Wolves, will wear the LGBT rainbow on their jerseys during a March 16 match against Fortuna Düsseldorf.
The women's branch of the German Football Association, the governing body for soccer in Germany, tweeted enthusiastic approval of this, "Terrific initiative @VfLWolfsburg!" It is curious that the women's branch would be so enthusiastic since transgenderism, the T of LGBT, poses a threat precisely to soccer for girls and women (see "Let All Play" report, pages 7-9).
A photo posted March 14 to the Facebook group
VfLGemeinsamBewegen (VfL Moving Together) shows use of the LGBT rainbow also on a corner flag at the March 13 She-Wolves' match. (Regarding corner flag regulations and political symbols, see the "Let All Play" report, pages 10-12). This Facebook post is captioned, "Diversity on the chest 🌈! Together with Volkswagen we are sending a signal with a special jersey during Diversity Week 2019, a clear symbol against exclusion." They claim this is "against exclusion" but in fact it has the opposite effect. Requiring the wearing of this symbol on player gear explicitly excludes those who disagree with this political symbol. Also, using the LGBT rainbow on field equipment such as the corner flag makes the game unwelcoming to those who disagree.
The VfL Wolfsburg "Diversity Weeks" will be observed not only in professional soccer but also at multiple league levels among local teams, including children's teams, that are affiliated with VfL Wolfsburg's top level men's team and women's team. "As a result," announced the VfL Wolfsburg, "in the future more than 650 teams in the various leagues in Lower Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt will play wearing a rainbow captain's armband."
Hiltrud Werner, on the Volkswagen Group Board of Management, where she is responsible for “integrity and legal affairs," praised the VfL Wolfsburg initiative. She remarked, "Sports, especially soccer, is an important part of Volkswagen's societal engagement. In this one must not forget an important aspect: tolerance and diversity."
Yet I wonder: what about "tolerance" for and a broad enough "diversity" to include those who have different opinions, such as those who do not want to wear the LGBT rainbow? Soccer should be for all, not just for those who consent to a specific set of political opinions. Let all play.